Just hours away from tip now, so it's time for the season's first Powerpoll. As a matter of housekeeping, remember that the Powerpoll is not predictive and is only meant to reflect the quality of the teams as of right now.
LET'S JUST CALL THEM WARM BODIES
Not since the 2002-2003 Columbia squad has there been an Ivy team so bereft of legitimate Division I talent. The 2009 Big Green narrowly edged that Lions squad for worst offensive efficiency rating of the 2000s, and it'd be hard to say that Dartmouth experienced a great talent upgrade in the offseason. Back to the future Big Green coach Paul Cormier was so thrilled with the talent when he got on campus that he cut half the returning team.
Dartmouth now sports 8 upperclassmen (only two of which sported a true shooting percentage over 50 last season) and 6 freshmen, almost all of whom were so far under the radar that they would have had to have been underground.
The Big Green will scrape together a few wins in Leede Arena - crazy things happen in that place, especially during the league slate - but for a team that went 0-for-2009 away from home (and only once came within single digits), it could be another string of long, fruitless road trips this season.
IF YOU CATCH THEM ON THEIR NIGHT
When the Lions hit 94.0 in Offensive Efficiency last year, they went 11-2. When they fell short, they went 0-15.
That's a harrowing statistic for a team that returns one bona fide offensive weapon - potential Ivy POY Noruwa Agho - and a talent grab bag. Columbia has the good size and decent athleticism that could make it an average defensive team. That alone could make it a competitive, middle-of-the-pack Ivy League club.
Whether the Lions can compete depends on whether they find an effective interior presence and another perimeter weapon to take the pressure off Agho. Looking down the roster, there's more "potential" than "likely." And that keeps Columbia in seventh. For now.
Lost in the seemingly obvious Yale talking point of how to replace scorer Alex Zampier is that the Bulldogs have to replace two key (and very efficient) role players - SF Jordan Gibson and C Paul Nelson.
The interior might not be a huge deal with one of the league's top offensive big men (Michael Sands) and one of the top defensive posts (Greg Mangano) lying in wait.
But where does the perimeter scoring come from?
Maybe SG Austin Morgan can follow up a strong freshman season, but remember, it's not just Zampier that Yale lost. The Bulldogs need two new perimeter options, and that might be a little too much to ask.
IT'S NOT WHERE YOU START, IT'S WHERE YOU FINISH
There's a flip side to the "so many new, talented faces - no one knows how good we can be!" argument.
Nobody knows how bad you might be either.
What we know about this edition of the Big Red is very little, primarily because the team returned fewer players than a post-World Series winning Florida Marlins club. Other than PG Chris Wroblewski, no player on the team has had the seasoning to prepare for the role about to be thrust upon him. Even if the talent is there, it's hard to imagine everyone settling in well enough off the bat to avoid a shaky start.
The league season is still two-plus months away, and then and only then should the Big Red start to be concerned with finding itself this far down on the powerpoll.
There's a core here that should normally win the Ivies: a POY point guard, deadly shooter and offensively skilled post. Add to that a solid perimeter defender, solid interior defender and quality rotation options and you might as well hand that team the NCAA automatic bid.
But when the solid perimeter defender just put up one of the worst offensive seasons by a player already trying to be invisible on offense, the solid interior defender has frequent flier miles at the campus hospital, and your deadly shooter was last deadly three years ago, well, you get the picture.
The Quakers' potential cannot be discounted. At the same time, this is a team that went 6-22 last year and only has PG Zack Rosen and PF Jack Eggleston as constants. If SF Tyler Bernardini posts an effective field goal percentage north of 50 on 25 percent or so of his team's shots, Penn might start to march to the top of this list.
TAKE THE OVER
The Bears could finish the season as the second-best offensive team in the league. And still finish sixth.
Brown held just 9-of-29 Division I opponents to an offensive rating of less than 100 last year, and two of those were against Dartmouth. The Bears can't rebound, can't turn teams over and can't defend opponents' shots. Then, they compound the problem by playing at a faster-than-average pace, which gives a greater advantage to the better team.
The offensive weapons are there, though, and if the Bears can just keep teams out of the 80s, they'll be in a lot of games. Without a great commitment to defense, however, expect a few of the teams currently lower on this list to pass Brown by.
While the Crimson arguably boasts the most talented backcourt in the league, its issues upfront have caused it trouble over the past three years. Harvard finished 2-11 in 2008 after losing Pat Magnarelli for Ivy play, endured a disastrous 1-7 stretch in 2009 as Evan Harris, Keith Wright and Doug Miller all missed time while Magnarelli and Andrew Van Nest missed the season and struggled to scratch out a 10-4 Ivy record last year as Magnarelli, Van Nest and Wright all missed significant time in league play.
The improved guard play has allowed Harvard to weather the injury storm amongst its big men, but with Magnarelli and Miller gone to graduation and sophomore PF Kyle Casey already on the shelf until at least December, the Crimson is thin in the frontcourt once again.
Van Nest and freshman Ugo Okam could be the answers to help Harvard stay competitive inside, but they need to provide clear production before the Crimson can challenge for the top spot.
THE LEAST OF EIGHT EVILS
Sure, the Tigers might be the worst favorite offensively since the 2005-2006 Penn team, and they might play way too slow to ever really put an opponent away. Say what you will about Princeton, but the Tigers were a top 75 team over the final two months of the season and lost very little from that squad.
Princeton is deceptively talented with a couple lights out shooters in Doug Davis and Dan Mavraides, a strong post in Ian Hummer and a uber-athletic, do-it-all type guy in Kareem Maddox. While the team currently lacks a point guard, there's no system better equipped to deal with that than one which requires everyone on the floor to set up teammates and find the open man anyway.
The downside of Princeton's style is that it allows lesser opponents to hang around, which can lead to some bizarre results. Not only will this hurt in league play, where lesser opponents abound for the Tigers, but it could hurt Princeton's potential NCAA seeding, if it suffers some bizarre upsets during the non-conference slate. That being said, the Tigers were a very consistent team down the stretch last year, with just one hiccup at home against Brown, so it's highly likely that they'll be pacing the league race from start to finish.